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The Brief: A Makeover for the Texas Education Agency

As Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced his picks for several new deputy commissioner positions, some teacher groups were to quick to focus on the charter school experience among the group.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath addressed the State Board of Education for the first time on Jan. 27, 2016.

The Big Conversation

As Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced his picks for several new deputy commissioner positions, some teacher groups were to quick to focus on the charter school experience among the group.

The Texas Tribune’s Kiah Collier reported Thursday that Morath announced the new posts he created as part of a sweeping reorganization of the Texas Education Agency. 

Martin Winchester, who will oversee the agency’s educator leadership and quality division, developed a principal recruiting program for charter network IDEA Public Schools in Texas. Penny Schwinn, who will oversee the agency’s assessment and accountability division, opened a charter school in Sacramento before working for the Delaware Department of Education, where she has also overseen accountability and performance. And Megan Aghazadian, who will oversee operations for the agency, has had a similar role with KIPP in Austin. They start their new jobs May 9.

Citing the charter school experience among the new officials, the Texas State Teachers Association urged Morath and his appointees Thursday "to make the needs of all 5.2 million Texas public school students their singular priority before focusing on alternatives that provide for only select groups of students."

The two other hires announced Thursday by Morath have already started. A.J. Crabill, who served on the Kansas City Public Schools board, is the deputy commissioner of governance. Kara Belew, who previously served as statewide budget director for Gov. Greg Abbott, is the deputy commissioner of finance.

Morath, who had previously served as a Dallas school district trustee, was named education commissioner in December.

Disclosure: The Texas State Teachers Association is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Trib Must Reads

Analysis: The Uncomfortable Intersection of Tragedy and Public Policy, by Ross Ramsey — Anyone trying to influence public policy will move where the public’s attention takes them, into the edges of the spotlight around events that might make their arguments for them.

Anti-Abortion Activist Wants Charges Tossed, by Alexa Ura — David Daleiden, an anti-abortion activist facing criminal charges after making undercover recordings of a Houston Planned Parenthood facility, is asking a Harris County judge to dismiss his indictments.

Judge Blocks Texas Immigrant Harboring Law, by Julián Aguilar — A federal judge has blocked part of the state’s omnibus border security bill that makes harboring undocumented immigrants a state crime.

Attorney General Backs City's Right to Bar Porn Convention, by Madlin Mekelburg — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said it is “perfectly reasonable” for Dallas to bar a pornography expo from the city's convention center in court documents filed Thursday.

Abbott Says Allegations Against Miller Warrant Probe, by Terri Langford — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott believes a complaint that Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller misused state funds when he took two out-of-state trips a year ago should be investigated, a spokesman for the governor said on Thursday. 

Elsewhere

Can Texas' Troubled DFPS Handle Detention Child Care Licenses?, Texas Observer 

CDC confirms Zika virus causes microcephaly, other birth defects, The Washington Post 

Baylor’s Starr says Senate should vote on Supreme Court appointment, Waco Tribune-Herald 

CPS workers didn’t check on endangered kids but filed records showing they did, The Dallas Morning News 

TravCo GOP Preps for Controversial New Chair; Rob Morrow Says 'I'm Not the Joker, You Are', Time Warner Cable News 

Eagle Pass city manager indicted, San Antonio Express-News

Austin council member offers Satanic amendment to compassion measure, Austin American-Statesman 

Former state senator, anti-abortion group headed to mediation over radio ad lawsuit, San Antonio Express-News

Attorney General Ken Paxton still paying top aides who left agency a month ago, The Dallas Morning News 

A drug kingpin’s plea with the U.S. triggered years of bloodshed reaching all the way to Southlake, The Dallas Morning News

CDC confirms male-to-male sexual transmission of Zika virus, The Dallas Morning News 

Quote to Note

"The reason I'm wearing the jester's hat and the joker's cap, is to say I'm not the joker, I'm not the jester, you are.”

— During an interview with Time Warner Cable News, incoming Travis County GOP Chairman Robert Marrow wore a jester’s hat while explaining how the joke is on the people, not him.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation with Dawn Buckingham on April 21 at the Austin Club

•    A Conversation on San Antonio & the Legislature: The Issues in the Interim on April 26 at the University of Texas at San Antonio

•    A Symposium on the Texas Economy on April 29 at the University of Houston

•    The Texas Tribune's third Texas-centric Trivia Night on May 1 at The Highball in Austin

•    A Conversation on Mental Health Matters on May 10 at KLRU Studio 6A in Austin

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